November is Diabetes Awareness Month (https://beyondtype1.org/diabetes-awareness-month/), a time to educate, advocate, and learn better management strategies. If you or a loved one lives with diabetes, learn why a condition characterized by blood sugar problems can affect your joints.
Diabetes: Causes, Types and Effects
Diabetes is the 7th most common cause of death in the United States, yet many don’t know much about this condition unless they have it or are at risk for it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 100 million people have either diabetes or prediabetes in the U.S. This condition is an irreversible disease where the body is insulin resistant, meaning it’s unable to process sugars into energy. The sugars then stay in a person’s bloodstream which can cause a range of chronic symptoms including death. Prediabetes is a reversible stage where patients can change their lifestyle and eating habits to avoid full insulin resistance.
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Both will feature insulin resistance, where sugars flood the blood. This causes fatigue, dizziness, nerve damage, death and more. These symptoms can come on incredibly fast. Most patients with type 1 diabetes are born with insulin-resistance and need medication from birth throughout the rest of their lives. Some patients can develop type 1, but it is less common. Most patients with type 2 diabetes developed insulin resistance over time due to lifestyle, eating habits and a family history for the disease.
When patients don’t manage their type of diabetes, it will cause inflammation around the bones and especially the joints as well as swelling of soft tissues of the body such as the muscles and ligaments. That is why diabetes is commonly associated with joint damage, arthritis and loss of range-of-motion over time.
Diabetes Commonly Affects the Hands
Patients with diabetes can develop conditions such as diabetic hand syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger and more. As we mentioned, diabetes causes inflammatory responses in the body that cause soft tissues to swell and inflame. When that happens around the bones, those bones become deteriorated, as do the cartilage around them. Diabetics can easily develop arthritis, which is inflammation of the bones that leads to bone loss, weak or brittle bones and joint deterioration.
These are common conditions affecting the hands:
- Diabetic hand syndrome: When diabetes is uncontrolled, patients can experience waxy, thickened skin in the hands. That skin will make the hands more swollen, causing them to be difficult to move properly.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: Your hand moves due to connective tissues pulling on the bones. Nerves tell your tissues how to move, and those nerves pass through small tunnels in the body, such as the hand. When the carpal tunnel area of your hand gets swollen from inflammation, overuse or repetitive movements, it leads to sharp pain, loss of feeling and sometimes the inability to use your hands.
- Trigger Finger: Related to the nerves and connective tissues of the hands, this condition also happens when tendons and muscles around the fingers become swollen and inflamed. This inflammation from uncontrolled diabetes makes it difficult to bend the fingers.
- Dupuytren’s contracture: Knots can build up under the layer of skin tissue on the palm of your hand. Those knots pull the fingers forward. Over time, this causes the hands to slowly curl inwards without being able to stretch out straight again.
- Neuropathy: Damage from inflammation and swelling can cause soft-tissue nerves to die or become damaged or compressed. This leads to a loss of feeling in that part of the body or limb because nerves are unable to communicate with the brain. Some neuropathy is permanent, whereas others can be cured with proper therapy, physical activity, medications and anti-inflammatory injections.
How Is It Connected to Arthritis?
There are over 100 different forms depending on where your arthritis is located and what it does to your joints. Currently, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common types of joint issues. Osteoarthritis affects about 27 million Americans and R.A. affects around 1.5 million. Both types of arthritis have to do with inflammation around the joints and the bones of the body. That inflammation wears down the bones, making them brittle or painful to move. Arthritis commonly happens from the effects of diabetes—especially uncontrolled diabetes—as the body’s response to insulin resistance causes inflammation all over the body.
The most common symptoms patients get with arthritis due to diabetes include:
- Knee pain, or joint pain elsewhere
- Frequent stiffening that happens over a few days or a few weeks
- Joint swelling, which can be visible
- Fatigue that gets worse over time
- Waking up with stiff joints
- Hard nodules that grow around the joints and under the skin
- Joint pain that increases with activity (even moving around the house) and cold weather
Your Treatment Plan to Decrease Joint Pain
Your best course of action when it comes to diabetes and arthritis is to prevent both of these conditions from happening. If that’s not possible and you already have diabetes, you want to manage your diabetes as much as possible. Watch your diet and keep your weight down. Limit how much sugar you are eating, as the body already has a hard time processing that sugar.
Chiropractic adjustments can help relieve the pressure placed on the joints when the body is out of alignment. That relief of pressure will put less stress on the joints, which will reduce damaging inflammation that is so common with diabetes. If you have chronic joint pain, consider anti-inflammatory injections that can reduce swelling, inflammation and joint pain. If you suffer with joint pain regularly, over-the-counter medications can help while you are in-between joint injections. We have many therapies and joint pain remedies for patients with diabetes, arthritis and other chronic conditions. To help manage your diabetes and the symptoms it causes, call Spine Correction Center of the Rockies today at (970) 658-5115!